In my last blog, I wrote about the key questions that membership bodies need to address when considering the right time to introduce accreditation. If you’ve already introduced accreditation, but are still using paper processes, then you’re in the right place to find out the next steps you need to take to move your accreditation process online.
Five Steps to Moving Your Accreditation Online
In our experience, there are five key steps that any membership body should take to ensure they get the most out of moving their accreditation online. Of course, each sector and each organization is different, so some of these steps will be more relevant for you than others.
1. Prepare the business case
You will need to prepare a business case for moving accreditation online to convince your leadership team and your members about the benefits.
Will updating your processes be cost neutral for the organization? Or is the move online more about building your member base? If so, you will need realistic projections of your return on investment. Don’t forget to factor in the amount of time that your people currently spend on paper-based processes. And consider what else they will be able to achieve if these processes are automated.
Analyze your current process from start to finish – from first point of contact through processing, approving, and granting accreditation. The relative costs between paper and online will help to demonstrate when you are ready to make the move online.
You will also need to look at how you will cover the cost of moving accreditation online. Will this be through membership fees (an increase in fees or an increase in the number of members)? Or other activities, such as networking events and access to specialist resources, professional development, or other benefits?
The bottom line is important. Just as important are the rationale behind the move and the communication to your members.
2. Consider the membership experience
We all know about the customer experience. In recruitment, people talk about the candidate experience. The same principles apply to creating a membership experience.
Membership is vital to the future of your organization, so your income streams also need to be sustainable. Do you add enough value that your members are happy to continue paying their fees? Delivering a seamless experience for new and renewing members is an important part of this.
Does your current accreditation process provide a high quality experience that is quick, convenient, and robust? If you still use paper-based processes, then the answer is probably no. When people can get a credit card approved in 20 minutes or stream any film they want at the touch of a button, then filling in paper forms, travelling long distances to a testing center, and waiting weeks for results in the mail just isn’t going to cut it.
Get feedback from your members and anyone who fails to renew. When a poor membership experience is affecting your recruitment and retention rates, it’s definitely time to make the move to online accreditation.
3. Watch your competitors
We live in a world of increasing competition. As the saying goes, if you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward. Others in the market will be adopting new technology and streamlining their systems, and not doing so will mean you'll get left behind.
Even a non-profit organization needs to keep up with the competition. And not just in relation to other bodies that your members could choose to join. You also need to adapt and stay relevant to the wider world. This includes digital transformation, emerging technology, and customer expectations of the online experience. Particularly, if you want – or need – to appeal to younger generations who use smart phones for everything and expect digital engagement as the norm.
4. Align your vision and mission
As part of the process of moving accreditation online, it’s a good idea to re-evaluate your vision and mission with key stakeholders. Talk to and survey your members and employees to make sure your goals are aligned.
Is your aim to grow and represent the majority of people in your profession or sector? Is it to advocate for your members and have a large enough membership body to guarantee a powerful and unified voice? Is it to deliver accreditation that gives your members credibility in the market and with their own customer base?
Moving your processes online will help you to achieve these ambitions while protecting your reputation. Which leads us to the next step...
5. Protect your reputation
An organization’s reputation rests on the integrity and validity of any accreditation they award. Your members and their stakeholders need to be assured that your processes are secure and robust, and need a guarantee that candidates have achieved the required standards.
The increase in Internet Based Testing (IBT) has created a need for secure administration. And technological advancements have made online proctoring not only possible but as secure as onsite proctoring. What’s more, depending on the level of security needed there are a variety of options from live proctoring to record & review proctoring to testing kiosks or un-proctored online testing.
Technology is ubiquitous in our society. Smart phones, tablets and iPads, personal computers – most of us have multiple devices at our disposal. This has led to an increase in demand for online testing and online proctoring that membership bodies can capitalize on to broaden their appeal and better meet the needs of their members.
Technological developments also make the transition from paper-based to online testing a whole lot easier, giving membership bodies the opportunity to provide accreditation programs that are cost effective, scalable, flexible, and secure, while delivering a convenient and non-invasive candidate experience to a far wider audience.